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Yes, There’s a Scene During the “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” End Credits

Mr Rogers!

Our lovely spokesmodel Anne introducing today’s feature presentation.

Among the many deficiencies in my childhood, I regret Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was not required viewing in our house. In the days before VCRs, DVR, and the Internet, our family’s TV schedule was strictly divided between myself, my mom, and my grandma. I was allowed to pick stations each weekday morning before 9 a.m., after school, and on Saturday mornings. Sadly, the kindly Fred Rogers had the misfortune of airing opposite Grandma’s soap operas and/or game shows. By the time I discovered him while channel-flipping, I was somewhere in my preteen phase — too old to respond to his low-key gentility, not quite old enough to watch him ironically, and nowhere near the kind of adult who could appreciate what he did or how he connected to millions of other, better-off kids.

My wife Anne, on the other hand, used to watch him all the time. As a youngling she watched him, Sesame Street, and other PBS all-stars all the time. He spoke directly to kids, the Viewers at Home. He wasn’t there to bedazzle them with whimsy or lull them with escapist conflicts or sell them toys. He taught, he explained, he knew, he felt, he sympathized, he loved. For some kids he seemed like the only adult who every really got them, who even tried to get them. He fell just short of absolute godhood, but to many, calling him “father figure” doesn’t begin to describe his impact on their lives.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, then, is a rare instance of Anne taking me with her to the movies for once.

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My Free Comic Book Day 2018 Results: The Best and the Least Best

Maxwell's Demons!

A boy and his toys go to war. From Maxwell’s Demons #1, art by Vittori Astone.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: on May 5th I once again had the pleasure of once again observing Free Comic Book Day, the least fake holiday of them all, that annual celebration when comic shops nationwide offer no-strings-attached goodies as a form of community outreach in honor of that time-honored medium where words and pictures dance in unison on the printed page, whether in the form of super-heroes, monsters, cartoon all-stars, licensed merchandise, or entertaining ordinary folk. Each year, America’s remaining comic book shops (and a handful in the UK that can afford the extra shipping charges) lure fans and curious onlookers inside their brick-and-mortar hideaways with a great big batch of free new comics from all the major publishers and a bevy of smaller competitors deserving shelf space and consideration.

This year my Free Comic Book Day involvement took on a different form. My local shop offered a special deal that sounds crazy on the face of it: for a fair sum of money, we could pre-purchase a bundle of all 52 Free Comic Book Day comics that their stores planned to order. Normally these would all be free, but you’d look like a schmuck for casually walking in, picking up all 52, and walking right back out. Instead they set aside copies of all those comics, bagged ’em up, and let buyers pick them up late Saturday afternoon, once all the furor and hubbub had subsided. I went for it. I liked the idea of playing the role of patron, donating extra cash to help facilitate Free Comic Book Day for other folks in town, in a way that would help my shop offset the costs.

I spent the rest of Saturday night and nearly all of Sunday reading all 52 and then posting my impressions on Twitter after each comic, along with photo excerpts from every single comic. I took photos rather than scans because (a) our scanner sometimes ruins the hard work of comics colorists, (b) I wanted to capture the feel of comics on actual physical paper, (c) I wanted to test my new phone, and (d) snapping pics was faster than scanning. This reading/photography project took until 11:30 p.m Sunday night to complete, and would’ve taken until sometime Tuesday if I hadn’t cut corners somewhere. I had to put this entry off for a few days because I needed a break after spending so, so much time with them all.

This entry, then, is a condensed version of that epic-length tweetstorm: my ranking of the twenty best books of the bunch, followed by my six least favorites of the entire stack. I never trust a comics reviewer or website that shares nothing but relentlessly glowing opinions — nor, conversely do I trust a critic who hates all comics and can’t be pleased — so this is my way of not becoming that which I disparage.

Up first: that happy Top 20. On with the countdown!

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In Honor of the Final Guy Night

July 9, 2013: dinner at the Gourmet Dumpling House in Boston’s Chinatown. Most likely my son’s final vacation with us.

[Tonight’s centerpiece is a previous MCC entry dated October 18, 2012. The photo, intro, and epilogue are new additions for follow-up purposes in light of upcoming major events.]

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Wednesday is Guy Night.

Father/son quality timeOf all our household’s rules and guidelines that aren’t Scripture quotes, one of the simplest and most scrupulously enforced in our family is four simple words: Wednesday is Guy Night. What we call “Guy Night”, normal people call “father/son quality time”. Then again, normal people rarely use the word “enforce” in that conversation.

This rule was instituted in spring 2003 after a blessed but stunning turn of events that resulted in my obtaining custody of my son from my ex-wife. This unbelievable, unpredicted, somewhat intimidating lifestyle change occurred after six years of liberal non-custodial visitation, thousands of literal miles of two-way ferrying, and countless little reminders from society and the media that, in 105% of all divorce situations, the mother is good and the father is evil. The short, impersonal summation of our situation is that it had become necessary in the opinion of the majority of those affected, and thus it was written.

I believe Guy Night was my best friend’s idea. I trust her as usual to correct me gently if I’m misremembering. When he moved back in with me full-time and was no longer a beloved privileged visitor, we decided it was important to establish as soon as possible after the big move that — whatever else might be done with my week, with his schooling, or with other family and friends — he and I needed a regular block of time carved out that we could dedicate to spending with each other. When she and I married in 2004 and merged households, this became more important than ever with the closer quarters and the advent of the prefix “step-” into numerous aspects of our new living phase.

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